The one time per year (though maybe that will change this year!) when people can buy my own comics rolled around, The Thing!
The day before I was still putting the finishing touches to Issue 3 of the Red, White & Blue, mainly the two "2-up" panels on the front cover. By aroundabout midnight I had finished it, compiled a PDF, printed it, scanned the text pages back in as images, and made all the images 300dpi. NOW I could start to print! However I was still getting used to the intricacies of both my new printer (which I got a few days ago and which ought to greatly increase my self-publishing abilities) and Publisher 98, which I was using to quickly and easily stick two A4 sized images on one A3 sized page.
The amazing(ly heavy) printer and the old computer I had to drag out to connect it to, as it only has a parallel connection.
As I was still experimenting, I didn’t think to shrink the images slightly and so on the covers of most copies the logo and strip are shifted and slightly cut-off one way or the other… just like on proper comics! (mind you all the colours are in the right place). The interior pages are much better, mind you. I only printed 25 copies of issue 3 so I could actually go to bed that, er, night.
We have comics!
The rest of the room. The small table also had my other old printer (that I got from a skip) on it pumping out penny comics and flyers earlier in the night.
Everything else in the room got shoved aside, I actually slept on the bed there as I couldn’t be bothered to move it all back XD.
Having finally finished the stapling at about 3 in the morning I went straight off to sleep after only a token ’shoving aside’ of the old computer so I wouldn’t tread on it when I got up. At about 1 minute to 6 in the morning my cat climbed in bed with me, expecting me to get up at half 6 as I usually do. She was a bit surprised to find me immediately getting out of bed, and stretched out one paw and yawned confusedly. After having some rushed tea and a wash I packed and left for the train.
The packed case the nex- er-later on that morning.
In the spirit of the first Thing that I went to, the trains were a disaster. Apparently somebody in Cambridge dropped a sodding match so they literally metaphorically evacuated THE ENTIRE WORLD, and also cancelled all the trains that would even be going past that station and not even stopping there (as the Ely-Kings Cross one I had planned to get was doing). I could then either get one to Stanstead and get into London by the Stanstead express, or go to Peterborough and then get a London train from there. The latter choice was the one I made, and probably the worst one considering it was going in the wrong direction… but I just wanted to start my journey somehow! So off I went.
Going to Peterburough… must be a good 50 or so miles in the opposite direction!
No it’s not actually near the coast, those are just flood plains and probably only a few CM deep. They’re bound to still have scratty estates built on them eventually though.
I texted my friend Natasha, who lives right near Cambridge station, saying "so is it a smouldering bin or a real fire?", she asked me where and then didn’t reply when I told her, so I guess it was nothing special. Having changed at Peterborough (and being reminded of my university days) I was finally on the way to London, luckily the train was fast and non-stop. I had to keep my case upright so sat on it in the doorway, probably not the best of ideas as I was going to be on my feet all day.
Anyway, on arriving in London I set out for the underground, dreading that experience as Mile End, the station I normally used, was shut. However it turned out the alternative one, Stepney Green, was actually closer! So I did alright and even made it to the Thing just before the opening time of 10!
People setting up before the event opens.
The grand old hall was still the setting for the Thing (it was in something different the first year, when I didn’t go). This time I was up on the stage, facing the reading/drawing/cartoon watching area. To my left was Geek-girl and to my right was the wonderful Vampire Free Style by the lovely Jenika Ioffreda, who I thought was Slovakian for ages but actually she’s Italian… oops. She also out-Japanesed me, and I'm supposed to be learning it for real!
I began to set up, with my amazingly-made flyer container and penny comic display (made from a not-even-disguised cat food box). I also had my giant Union Jack as a tablecloth this time, it looked good, I might continue to do that even when I'm at a table with a wall behind it.
My table… If you have seen my picture of it from 2008 you will notice the difference… yes, in all that time I have made ONE new comic!
Some people came around promoting Caption, another small press con held in Oxford which is kind of a meet-up event rather than a selling event. I may go to it as a visitor one of these years. Also the people who did the genius Dino-Saw-Us "passports" came around giving out blank stickers for those of us who hadn’t bothered to order any proper ones. Amazingly I saw some people not taking part in it anyway! It’s an amazing idea as it encourages people to visit tables they might otherwise just wander by. As it was almost starting time I just dashed off "RWB" letters on a sheet of them. Jenika next to me did loads of cute small designs with punk skulls and things… wish I could be talented enough to do decent drawings quickly XD.
Random picture! I didn’t know there was chairs up there.
The doors opened to the eager public who… stayed away. There was some other conventions being held that day including one in Scotchland and also Memorabilia in Birmingham. Also it turned out it had been raining that day reducing the numbers of casual passers-by as well. Still a few people came by early in the day just checking stuff out before buying. I handed out free flyers and a few passport stickers profusely. Even if they didn’t come back then they’d still have my URL. I managed to lure in a few people early on to buy penny comics too, but I don’t think I sold my first RWB until about 11! Also I managed to nab Vampire Free Style fans, it pays to be next to somebody good XD.
Business became a bit more brisk by mid morning as people came back and actually wanted to talk in more detail about the comics. I couldn’t really explain what mine was beyond "Old fashioned boys’ own adventure" as I doubt 99% of the people there would get references to Amalgamated Press and The Boys’ Friend. Did run into one guy who had heard of Sexton Blake, though. But only through the allegedly comedy radio show XD.
One of the boxes
During the lean periods us people on the stage had cartoons to watch! Though at a funny angle on a projection screen in a room not really suited to projection. Early on they had some Edd Egg ones that looked entertaining. On a wander I went to see if they had a DVD of them for sale but the table was too mobbed to ask much questions. Also shown were some old Mr Men ones, some odd-looking ones made by students, and something apparently called Avatar, though it didn’t seem to be related to the blue people film (not that I've seen it). It had a wizard creating some sort of blob thing that people were flame-throwering, and a kid making a whirlpool in the air with his hands… or something. As I said I couldn’t see it very well XD.
The screen, the camera actually captured more details than my eyes did.
Around 2 i went for my first walk around to buy essentials, which included Tozo, Massacre for Boys (the British adventure comic parody that’s not crap… unlike just about all the others), and West. Going back to the table i had probably my best time, even came across somebody who had bought issue 1 of the RWB last time and wanted 2 and 3. Another bloke bought all 3 but also paid with a 20 pound note, eating up all my change! (which all seemed to be 50ps anyway). This put a bit of a downer on it as i wanted to have a later wander and buy stuff at random from unloved-looking tables… but i had to be more selective. Next year i’ll have two change collections, one for the ’till’ and one for buying!
I also met an Irish guy who said it looked good but the name Red, White & Blue put him off… which was apparently the reason why the name of it’s spiritual predecessor, Union Jack (1894-1933) had it’s name changed to Detective Weekly. An American girl came looking around but when I offered her a penny comic she said she actually had no money at all XD. Quite a few people were attracted by my old comic, Scum Slaughter, because of it’s name and grimy-looking artwork. Makes me seriously consider a second print-run of it (only with colour this time so you can see the blood!). Mind you I still didn’t sell too many, I ought to have pressed the fact they were 20p harder! Also a girl had a long look through the Red, White & Blue’s and settled on buying issue 2, after I convinced her that the serial stories were "easy enough to pick up if you miss an issue"… I think she believed me, bwahahah.
About as full as the room got… damn those schedule clashes!
A guy then came up saying "You are Felneymike and a claim my five pounds!", I knew immediately this was somebody who knew XD. Mind you i use that username everywhere so couldn’t narrow it down at first, til he explained he was from the great website Comics-UK. I was just glad to be able to explain my own comic in proper terms like "it’s got complete Sexton Blake stories in the style of Amalgamated Press, text serials in the style of DC Thomson, ‘Square panel’ adventure strips in the style of Victor or Knockout, ‘Jagged panel’ strips in the style of Action and colour cover strips vaguely like Eagle". Phew… no wonder I call it "The comic of the twentieth century - today!"
I had my second wander of the hall with a little more change, and was able to collect a bit more by using notes on other people. Still I had to pass up a heap of interesting looking stuff, but got some great things including Jambo, "the UK’s first jam-powered superhero!" (sounds, but doesn’t look, like something straight from Viz!) and the amazing Delicate Axiom, which starts out normal and then just gets weirder and weirder, but the weirdness is treated in a matter-of-fact "yeah… you didn’t know?" way.
Yup, all gorn.
Aroundabout 4 I ran out of free flyers. I had 103, so that’s 103 people who got my URL (even if only 10% will bother to visit it XD) . They’re always worth making and mine only took minutes. I also had time to chat to the people either side of me about various stuff including other conventions, cats and learning Japanese.
Just before 5 some bloke who was not the organiser bellowed out "The show’s over so bugger off", to rapturous applause from the tables downstairs. Guess it was some in-joke that was going around down there. Stinkin’ non-stage people thinkin’ they’re better than us… They were jealous of our Mr Men.
About 5 minutes after the announcement of the end.
My pack-up time was remarkably rapid, and I sodded off. Only then discovering it was cold and wet outside. I had been intending to track down the New Globe pub for Schmurgencon, but was far too tired so went straight for the train. After almost falling asleep on the underground I decided to sit on my case in the doorway of the train back to Ely. However this was crazily uncomfortable so I then moved to a proper seat.
Uuuntil we got to Cambridge where the train was splitting, and everybody had to overcrowd into the front carriages. Surprise Surprise, Cambridge station was not a smouldering ruin but completely undamaged. A huge area was cordoned off by police tape for no apparent reason. I was again sitting on my case in the doorway until Ely, when i walked around to the Park and Ride car park and drove home for a very long and deep sleep!
Epilogue: Actually the fire was at an old mill/grain storage place behind the station which was due to be rebuilt into a shopping centre/office building but keeping some of the original character. One of the grain storage buildings had to be demolished but the main building was saved, even though the fire had been huge. Microsoft have offered to move into part of the office building and I believe are even putting up part of the money to rebuild the demolished storage tower!